for Anne Marie Johnson—in a Haitian hospital with pneumonia.
for Alfie Evans, 14 Months old ,
another hostage of socialized medicine in Britain.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin and English
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost -
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost - Latin
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see signs and wonders, you believe not.”
Sometimes the man in the parable, “a ruler”—perhaps a
local official or perhaps a leader in the synagogue at Capharnaum—is
contrasted with the Roman Centurion described by Matthew and Luke.
The Centurion is famous for his telling Jesus that it was unnecessary for
Him to heal his servant in person—“speak but the word and my servant will be
healed.” Our Lord was impressed, indeed, with the faith of the Centurion:
“I have not found such faith in Israel.”
Today we hear Him say “Unless you see signs and
wonders, you believe not.” I am going to suggest that this accusation of
non-belief was not directed at the ruler in today’s Gospel. Let us consider
what we mean when we use the word “faith” or “belief.”
Saint Paul tells us: “Now faith is the substance of
things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not (the evidence
for real things which we cannot see).”
We have a little more scholastic definition in the Catechism:
Faith is a
Divine virtue by which we firmly believe the truths which God has revealed.
We say the
three theological virtues [including Faith] are infused; that is, poured
into our souls, because they are strictly gifts of God and do not depend
upon our efforts to obtain them, while the four moral virtues—Prudence,
Justice, Fortitude and Temperance—though also gifts of God, may, as natural
virtues, be acquired by our own efforts.
Therefore, if the ruler in today’s Gospel lacked
belief, it was that God had not yet chosen to revel something to him—and had
not infused him with faith. It is likely that the ruler came to Cana to
ask for his son’s cure because he had heard rumors of Jesus power from other
people—a sort of indirect revelation, not yet confirmed by supernatural
So, then, what was the nature of Jesus’ complaint, and
to whom was it directed?
I think we can say that it was directed at future
generations of people—those who had received word of God’s powers—and—who
had received supernatural grace through the reception of the Sacraments.
Saint John starts out this very chapter, noting that “that Jesus made more
disciples, and baptized more than John, (Though Jesus Himself did not
baptize, but His disciples)….”
So the stage is set for the reception of genuine faith.
Today’s reading concludes that the ruler “himself
believed. and his whole household.” The conversion of a whole household and
the their reception of Baptism is very much like Saint Peter’s conversion of
a Centurion named Cornelius in the Acts of the Apostles.
The family converted today witnessed far more than Peter’s preaching—they
witnessed a true miracle, worked by the words of Jesus Christ.
We live in a world where many are Baptized and the
miracles of Jesus are well known. But yet, Jesus may well have been
accusing us of being a generation of “little faith—a generation that
would not believe without “signs and wonders.” Even among the Baptized
there are some who never truly learned the Faith, and others all too willing
to exchange supernatural grace for the allurements of sin. Maybe His words
of reproach are directed at all of us.
So what can we do? The answer is two-fold. The first
part is intellectual. We can and should know our Faith in greater
detail—between our library and the vast resources on the Internet the
possibilities seem limitless. And, likewise, we can and should share the
knowledge of the Faith with those around us. There are plenty of people out
there who are not hostile to Christianity, but have never heard it explained
properly, and who have not benefited by witnessing the good example of
practicing Christians. In modern “education” many have rejected objective
truth (if not reality altogether)—they look to mathematics instead of
theology to explain the universe—to socialism and “social justice” instead
of the moral teaching of Jesus Christ. Such folks need the benefit of our
good example, and our patient explanation of their questions about the
But, a well formed intellect is only half of the remedy
for our Lord’s reproach. The theological virtue of Faith requires an
infusion of God’ grace. We cannot force that to happen, but we don’t need
to force it, for God wants it! Every day we have countless opportunities
that God wants us to have.
Sacramentals excite in us pious dispositions, by means of which we may
In a Catholic home we should be literally surrounded by
Sacramentals: Holy Water, the Crucifix, the Scapular, the Rosary, the
Miraculous Medal. One need do no more than make the Sign of the Cross to
“excite pious dispositions.” And we should make sure that we allow the
Sacramentals to draw us into the contemplation of God and His holiness.
I am especially fond of the Rosary, for in the space of
its fifteen decades we are drawn into an experience of the lives of Jesus
and Mary—a never ending source of grace. Nor should we despise the other
prayers given to us by the Church for our sanctification. Note well that
this prayer life can be lived anywhere—at home, in the car, on the bus, on
foot—in the city or the country—in the air or on the water (even under the
But we do have a church—and Jesus Christ is here in the
Blessed Sacrament—always available to hear our prayers. And He is here
virtually every day to renew His Sacrifice on the Cross. We may be
thousands of miles and thousands of years away, but every morning we can
stand on Calvary beneath the Cross of our salvation. Not only may we stand
at the Cross, but we can receive the body and blood—soul and divinity—of God
the Son of God in Holy Communion when we assist at those Masses. Can there
be any greater sanctification than being physically and spiritually united
to our God? Of course not!
So, when you hear our Lord asking whether or not you
require “signs and wonders” to believe, you must assure Him that you do
not. Assure Him that you are doing your best to know and share the
Catholic Faith. Assure Him that you are doing all you can to grow in His
grace through the Sacraments and Sacramentals.
Of course, if you are being honest, He will already
know these things. So be sure to do what you say you are doing!